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City's new C&D recycling ordinance 'going well'

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A construction and demolition debris recycling ordinance went into effect July 1 that could extend the use of Miramar Landfill as well as help the city of San Diego avoid state fines.

The construction and demolition, or C&D, ordinance would require builders to recycle debris like rock, concrete, dirt or tile at a waste facility and could help the city comply with California Assembly Bill 939, which requires jurisdictions in California to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills.

"It's been going well so far," said City of San Diego Waste Reduction Program Manager Stephen Grealy. "We are doing a lot of hand-holding and educating, but we were expecting people to have some problems with the forms, especially in the first six months."

Grealy said that the city of San Diego has been doing a lot of individual follow-ups with contractors to help them with the new processes the law requires.

The C&D ordinance calls for contractors working on projects to pay a deposit based on the area of the project in square feet and the type of the project (e.g., residential or commercial, demolition, alterations or construction).

Should only a percentage of the goals be met, the returned deposit would be prorated to the correct percentage. For example, if builders met 80 percent of their goal, then they would receive 80 percent of their deposit back.

Scott Malloy, public policy advocate of the San Diego Building Industry Association, said the local BIA is supportive of the ordinance overall, but that the deposit system will be a challenge for contractors.

"They're effectively fees," said Malloy, adding that the deposits to the city gain interest for the city but not the contractor. "They're a cost of doing business."

Malloy said for some contractors, meeting a goal to recycle 75 percent of their debris could be extremely challenging.

"There could be people who would forgo the process because it's not cost effective," said Malloy, "and that would not be an ideal outcome for anyone."

Grealy said that any money not returned to contractors at the end of a project would "not become a big pot of money," but would "go back into recycling."

Before the ordinance was put into effect, the San Diego BIA asked the city to fine individuals who did not follow the new recycling mandates rather than require a deposit. However, Malloy said he understands why deposits are required.

"It's one way to facilitate compliance," he said, adding that a deposit will make the biggest impact on builders financially.

According to Grealy, if one were to apply the new law to existing permits, only half would be affected since minor adjustments, such as installing a swimming pool or building a fence, do not fall under the new law.

As of the end of July, 58 projects have fallen under the new ordinance, and the city has collected about $30,000 in deposits. Some of the first projects are nearing completion, and Grealy said he hopes the correct procedures will be followed for the contractors to have their deposit returned.

Though the city of San Diego passed the ordinance in October 2005, it had not been implemented prior to July 1 due to a requirement of having a C&D facility within city bounds, according to the original mandate.

According to Grealy, the wording of the law was changed to make it so that a mixed C&D facility needed to be within 25 miles of downtown to accommodate EDCO Recycling and Waste Collection facilities in Lemon Grove, stating that the EDCO site was closer to downtown than Miramar landfill. The law was approved by the City Council in November.

While the city of San Diego's C&D ordinance began July 1, similar programs around the county are already in place or moving in that direction. Chula Vista, for example, wanted to begin its own C&D recycling program, but is waiting for a mixed C&D facility to be built within its city limits.

Malloy said the building industry is very supportive of recycling overall, and many builders were willing to recycle their mixed C&D debris to reduce costs, even before the ordinance was put into effect.

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